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Helping Those in Need, Students Giving Hope

By Alexandra Saffa-Hoethke

(iGlobe) -- As high school students, it is essential to give back to communities to implement long-term habits of community service, sharing kindness and making impacts on the lives of others. Students in the online school community take community service into their own hands and give back to their home-town communities, all while sharing their experiences through a highly connected network of online school friends. Students of George Washington University Online High School (GWUOHS) gathered in late January to give back to the medical community and visited the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) of Charlotte, North Carolina.

The RMH was originally founded in Philadelphia in 1974. The former Philadelphia Eagles football player, Fred Hill, and his wife, Fran Hill, were in hospitals for their three-year-old daughter, Kim Hill, who was diagnosed with Leukemia and receiving treatment at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. With the high expense of hotels and traveling, the Hills often camped out on hospital benches and nourished themselves with vending machine meals. The Hills knew they were not the only family who found themselves confronted with these daily predicaments that interfered with their main worry about their child fighting cancer. Shortly thereafter, through their support of McDonald’s and nearby communities, the first house was purchased near the hospital.

Several GWUOHS students, including myself, gathered in the Queen City, Charlotte, NC, to visit the RMH. This RMH of Charlotte was built when two families generously donated their homes to be leveled in order to build the RMD near the hospital. As we walked up the hill that towered over the busy street directing drivers to the Carolinas Medical Center Hospital, I began to wonder just how many people must have walked up that same hill, all with different stories. I walked up the hill knowing my visit would entail a series of ameliorating services to soothe the guests. On the other hand, the man walking beside me may have walked up the hill overwhelmed with the worry of his child being treated in the hospital and fighting cancer. Nonetheless, the people who visit the RMH each withhold meaning.

The welcoming front doors encouraged guests to feel immediately at home, especially at a time when they are facing tragedy and heartbreak. As we continued with the tour, we walked past rooms that each represented a significant part of a visitor’s life. The hallways were decorated with photographs of the children seeking treatment at the hospital; some children make it home, and others sadly do not. Each door was beautifully dressed with hand-made crafts.

While the RMH may appear to be small from the outside, from within, it feels not only like a home, but also a toy factory, art studio, gaming studio, community, and warming sanctuary all in one place. While each visitor’s story is unique, as I walked along the hallways, I could only imagine what the visitors must be feeling and realizing how precious each day is. Visiting the RMH was heartwarming, as well as life-changing. In today’s society, we’re subjected to feeling as if we’re always on-call. Whether it be a subconscious reaction to life, or simply a force of habit, but in the busy world, we so often magnify the minor things in life. It was not until I visited the RMH that I came to realize just how individualized the world is. While I may take the subway to get to class, the person sitting next to me may be taking the same subway to get to a chemotherapy treatment session.

In a world that is consistently modernizing and seemingly on-call, it is easy to delve into an individual approach to life. However, it is essential to sit back every once in a while and put things into perspective. The RMH, a comforting home providing heartwarming care for the families facing the most difficult moments in their family’s life, ensures that their guests do not feel alone in their seemingly individualistic situations. Knowing that there is a home right near the hospital that provides families with love and support is what drives the families to keep believing.

It was not until I visited the RMH that I realized how essential it is to give back. While we are all busy with school, work, or hobbies, we often forget that each one of us will experience hurt and sadness, and at those times, we would hope that there is someone there to donate their time to try to ease the pain, just as the RMH does for families, every day.

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